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Rachel Décoste

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What Obama Has That Canadian Politicos Lack

Posted: 11/06/2012 7:22 pm

Canada has seen a groudswell of interest, some might say infatuation, for the American elections. It seems more acute this year than it was during the Bill Clinton, Bush I or II election cycles.

In 2008, election-watch parties became a phenomenon across the country. Even non-politicophiles gleefully committed electoral adultery by following the American electoral returns with the intensity previously reserved for the Olympic hockey finals.

This year is no different. In fact, numerous Canadians have made the jump across the border to volunteer on the campaign for the American president's re-election. Even teenagers, not yet of voting age, have fallen under Barry's spell.

There is a sense that history is being made, that this President is this generation's John F. Kennedy, that this is the era we'll be referring to for decades to come.

The frenzie is not limited to commoners. Canadian political parties have studied the 2008 Obama election model and attempted to copy it. The simplified web presence, a pivot towards social media and YouTube, and the focus on collecting email addresses for future use are obvious examples.

But no Canadian political machine has matched the prowess of Obama's pivotal exploit.

Because there is an element of the formula that is still missing in Canadian politics. The ingredient Obama brings is one that still eludes the political establishment.

Too often, when Canadian political leaders refer to the working class, immigrants, visible minorities, the poor, or those who have to lean on government to perhaps pursue their post-secondary education, they refer to us in the third person plural. When Obama talks about the working class, it is not an abstract concept he's only read about in books, he employs the words "us" and "we" with a sincerity that eclipses that of his opponents'.

We believe him because we identify with his life experiences: In a single-parent household, relying temporarily on food stamps; being teased for being "different" -- something every visible minority kid has experienced in one form or another; depending on loans and grands to attend university; picking up his then-girlfriend Michelle in an old beat-up car -- because that's all he could afford.

Yes, these anecdotes resonated with us four years ago. And for some of us, even moreso after the Birther movement reduced his presidency to a referendum on Obama's belonging to the country of his birth -- the American version of Canada's «Where are you from?» [...] «No, where are you *really* from?»

Until Canada comes up with a leader who can include the 99 per cent, who can articulate our everyday struggles and triumphs, who can encompass the diverse fabric of Canadian society, we are condemned to live vicariously through our neighbours to the South.

And what a vicarious life it is!

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  • The Globe And Mail - Obama

    "In spite of his own merits, Mr. Romney’s program has unsettling elements of adventurism. Mr. Obama has his flaws, too, but, with his steady hand, he has the better chance of enabling and leading a real recovery of the economy of the United States." - <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/editorials/despite-flaws-obama-gets-the-globes-endorsement-as-the-better-candidate-to-lead-real-economic-recovery/article4870036/">Read the full endorsement</a>

  • Toronto Star - Obama

    "Torn as Americans are, Obama has averted economic crisis, rung down the curtain on war and shown compassion for the vulnerable. He has earned a second term." - <a href="http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1282048--barack-obama-has-earned-a-second-term-as-u-s-president">Read the full endorsement</a>

  • Sun News - Not Obama

    "Obama, of course, has the endorsement of federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, a situation which would have had the Ottawa press corps going ape if Prime Minister Stephen Harper had endorsed anyone, let alone Mitt Romney. Yet there was hardly a critical peep about Mulcair's nonsense coming from the consensus media. They'd rather leave the straight talk up to us." - <a href="http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/straighttalk/archives/2012/11/20121106-093644.html">Read the full (sort of) endorsement</a>

  • Globe's Margaret Wente - Not Obama

    "The more I listen to my American friends, the more convinced I am that Barack Obama doesn’t deserve to win. Sure, he was dealt a rotten hand. But he squandered his political capital and his opportunities. The trouble is, I’m pretty sure the other guy doesn’t deserve to win either. Good luck, Jim! You’re going to need it." - <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/why-obama-doesnt-deserve-to-win/article4893419/#">Read the full (sort of) endorsement</a>

  • National Post's Jonathan Kay - Either Or

    "And yet, even on a deeply personal level, an investigation of the two men’s backgrounds show they are far more similar than partisans on either side might imagine." - <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/11/01/jonathan-kay-a-race-between-two-decent-men-with-fundamental-similarities/">Read the full (sort of) endorsement</a>

  • Sun's Ezra Levant - Not Obama

    "America is resilient. But four more years of Obama will change that country deeply — and not for the better." - <a href="http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/straighttalk/archives/2012/11/20121106-075035.html">Read the full (sort of) endorsement</a>

  • Globe's John Ibbitson - Obama (Kind Of)

    "To the extent that Mr. Romney speaks for that Southern culture and history, he is alien to most Canadians, even if he was born in Michigan, summered in Ontario and governed Massachusetts. Canadians will sit by their televisions Tuesday night, hands clutched, praying for Barack Obama to win, because he is the America they know." - <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/barack-obama-the-candidate-canadians-understand/article4912873/">Read the full (sort of) endorsement</a>

  • Post's Kelly McParland - Romney

    "Romney may be a flip-flopper, but he’s not lacking skill or intelligence. He is a more accomplished and more promising figure than George W. Bush was, and has a wider range of experience. He seems unlikely to bumble into disaster, and gives the impression he’d be competent in times of crisis. A successful moderate Republican administration would also go a long way to curbing the cult of extremism and intolerance that is driving the party towards the fringes of political life. That in itself would be a welcome contribution to the reinvigoration of American life." - <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/11/01/kelly-mcparland-romney-is-the-better-bet/">Read the full endorsement</a>

  • Post's Matt Gurney - Either Or

    "None of the above is an endorsement of Obama, who’s been better than I expected, but hardly great. I wouldn’t vote to re-elect the President. But I wouldn’t vote for Romney, either. Right guy. Wrong party." - <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/11/05/matt-gurney-nice-guy-romney-too-bad-about-his-party/">Read the full (sort of) endorsement</a>

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